It can happen to any of us, male or female. It comes when you least expect it. But eventually, something will tip you off that things just aren't adding up.
There you are, minding your business, hanging out with a buddy, and then you realize what's happening: While you thought you were just grabbing dinner with a friend or just catching a movie with a homie who happened to be in your area, you actually were being sneak-dated. (For the uninitiated, that's when a friend, trying to be more than friends, dates you without you even knowing it.)
I admit, this has happened to me. A couple of my female friends pulled the wool over my eyes and almost roped me into "relationships" without me being the wiser. They were crafty, but each of them slipped up, as they always do. And while it took me a while to recognize the signs, I'm passing a few of them on so you don't fall for the okie-doke. If your friend is exhibiting any of these behaviors, it may be time to have a talk.
Never wants to hang out in groups
If you have a friend who always is down to link up when you're alone but declines invitations to meet up with you and a group of friends, he or she may be "dating" you. Wanting a lot of one-on-one attention is a telltale sign that you may be someone's girlfriend or boyfriend—in his or her head. This is not always true, but if you notice a pattern, start asking questions.
Says everyone else canceled
Now, this is the opposite of sign No. 1. If you have a friend who invites all of his or her friends to things like family events, and everyone else always has a way of canceling, you're not the "good" friend who always supports, you're pre-relationship. They get the family to like you, see what a nice person you are (hopefully) and then subconsciously enlist them as reinforcements. Before you know it, you'll start hearing comments like, "So when are you two going to get together?" coming from the gallery of family members.
Gives gifts that are too extravagant
Birthdays and holidays are times to give gifts among friends. But if the gifts you're getting from a particular friend are over the top ... you might be being courted. If these gifts cost a significant percentage of a paycheck, someone may be making investments into your future together. It can be awkward to turn these types of gifts down, and even more tempting to keep them, but it'll only add to the problem.
Sends progressively weirder texts
If this person sends a singular "good morning" or "good night" text, in their minds, you go together. Now it's true that things can sometimes get lost in translation via text, but phrases like these are a pretty safe bet that this is not a traditional friendship for at least one party. If you don't pay attention, by the time you've got to do a double take after reading one of their questionable texts, chances are they've been sending you sweet nothings for quite a while already.
Oh, and one last thing: Keep a special eye out on social media. If the friend's profile pic or avatar is of you two together, they may have already unofficially announced this make-believe relationship. So just be careful, because the spring dating season is coming up and you may or may not already be taken.
Anthony Roberts is a RedEye special contributor.
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